No First Nations on expert panel a problem, critics say
A panel of experts at a roundtable looking into Alberta’s child intervention system is being criticized for lacking representation from some key players.
Experts on the two-day roundtable include Del Graff, Alberta’s child and youth advocate, Dr. Anny Sauvageau, chief medical examiner, Gordon Phaneuf, executive director of the Child Welfare League of Canada, and Jill Clayton, privacy commissioner.
"We don't have anybody on the expert panel that represents First Nations groups,” said NDP human services critic Rachel Notley.
“We don't have anybody on the panel that represents foster families, that represents the families of the children in care, or anyone that represents the voice of the front line workers, the social workers."
According to research from the University of Alberta, First Nation children are six to eight times more likely to be taken into government care than non-aboriginal children.
Instead, representatives from Alberta First Nations took part in break-out sessions.
"We're key, as aboriginal people, to be involved with this,” said social worker Wally Sinclair.
Liberal leader Raj Sherman says the scope of the two-day roundtable is too narrow.
Participants are discussing how deaths are investigated and disclosed -- not how deaths are prevented -- which Sherman thinks should be part of a wider judicial inquiry.
He believes First Nation leaders, front-line staff and representatives from the federal government should be involved -- as well as adults who grew up in government care.
"They need to be here,” Sherman said.
“They’ve experienced the system.They can tell us their first-hand experience and offer solutions to improve it. Yet they’re not here.”
Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said the roundtable is only starting the process and he plans to consult directly with First Nations communities.
“I made that commitment to many chiefs in December," he said. "I said, 'That’s for me to come to you. Me to visit your land, your territory and me to visit your community.'"
The roundtable continues on Wednesday with Premier Alison Redford making remarks to start off the session.